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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Comment to a Commentator on Another Blog


            I will not do this often, but I really felt the urge to respond to this comment posted on the JSOnline blog I linked to the other day.  (Though I do realize the author of that comment may never read my response seeing as that author clearly does not care for cyclists or the law, or other users of the road for that matter, and that is what my blog is about.)

            NobodyYouKnow - Apr 17, 2011 5:18 PM
quit riding your bikes on busy roads!!

yeah, i said it.

we know you have a right to be out there. but people talk on the phone while they drive. they yell at their kids in the back seat. they still text. and they never clean their windshield- so when the sun shines... they see nothing. people should not be doing these things... but they do. and it's not going to stop.

so if you think it's worth risking your life to stake your claim on the highways... go ahead. you could be the next crimson stain on the road.

and even if the driver goes to jail... you'll still be dead.”

(Bloggers’ note- I did not edit this comment in any way- yeah, it is that ridiculous.)

            First, I would like to thank the commentator above for his/her empathy with all those, not just cyclists, who have been or will be injured or killed on Wisconsin’s roadways. 

            Second, what is a busy road?  Is it ok, commentator, to ride on non-busy roads?  You cool with that?  That was just a snide comment from me, but I would like to point out your delineation between a cyclist’s ability to ride on a non-busy road versus a busy road ignores the law which allows cyclists (vehicle operators) to ride on any road, whether it is busy or not.

            Third, it is important to note what the commentator is really saying in his/her comment is that the commentator, and others similar to him/her, drive distracted or in an unsafe and unreasonable manner, and you know what- they are not going to stop anytime soon. 

            In fact, they are going to keep driving like that and if they injure or kill someone while driving on the roads in that manner, it is really the injured or killed party’s fault that he or she is now injured or dead.  Really!? REALLY!?  (This blogger may have just let some expletives come out of his mouth.)

            The author of this comment has singled out cyclists, because that was the topic of the blog on JSOnline.  But really, that person is telling every operator of any type of vehicle on a roadway that, hey, me and others like to drive while texting, watching a montage of car chases on my portable DVD player in the seat next to me and munching on cheese balls, so watch out because I am going to be all over the road and I do not have time to watch out for other users of the road, so I am putting you on notice that I am out there and it is YOU who should be watching out for me because I have no responsibility to watch out for you.  (This blogger is not going to get into the notion of “duty” at this time because I will probably need that for another topic at a later date.)

            So, there you have it society.  Be careful on the roads because “NobodyYouKnow” and others like him or her are out there, and heck, they are not going to even try to stop texting while driving (which is illegal) or doing other activities which are unsafe and unreasonable while driving because they don’t care about other users of the road- whether that user is a cyclist, motorcyclist, moped user or fellow car operator. 

            (As a side note, lots of people like to point out that they see cyclists go through red lights and not stop at stop signs or signal a turn.  And yes, I have seen that happen as well.  However, that kind of logic totally ignores the fact that plenty of other vehicle operators (car, moped, motorcycle) do the same exact thing.  Any vehicle operator (remember, vehicle operator includes cyclists) who ignores the rules of the road and violates the law is in the wrong.  I just wanted to point out that that kind of thinking is totally erroneous.)

            By the way, I am not out riding my bike to “stake my claim on the highways.”  I am actually out riding because it is a form of exercise and it is fun, and sometimes it is purely for transporting myself from point A to point B and back again.  I think most people riding their bikes out on the roadways are doing the same thing.  I doubt people are riding out on the road on a regular basis just to “stake their claim”.  (Exception- the Critical Mass rides.)

            I would like to end with the last point “NobodyYouKnow” makes.  “And even if the driver goes to jail… you’ll still be dead.”  As gruesome as that is to think about, it is a reality.  It is also that type of thinking that leads people, like “NobodyYouKnow”, to continue to disregard the rights of operators on the roadway and drive in an unsafe and unreasonable manner- putting not only other vehicle operators’ lives at risk, as well as those of passengers and pedestrians, but also the life of the driver who is operating the vehicle in an unsafe and unreasonable manner.

            This is precisely why Wisconsin needs tougher penalties against those who violate the law, and better legal protection for ALL users of Wisconsin’s roadways who are injured or killed because of a violation of the law.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is There Room on the Road?


             I have been working on this posting for a little while now, and did not intend to post it today.  However, this morning I read this blog on JSOnline (http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/lifestyle/120010609.html), which discusses the upcoming Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin summit in Madison and the issues the Federation will discuss. 

            Of the discussion topics, what is most interesting to me is the discussion of vulnerable user laws and tougher penalties for motorists who seriously injure or kill a cyclist.  This brings me to the “3-foot” statute.[i] 

            The purpose of this statute is to provide a safe clearance distance; in Wisconsin it is at least 3-feet, when a motorist is passing a cyclist in the same direction.  In theory, it is a good law intended to give cyclists some protection as cars pass them by.  In reality, the only time I actually hear of this law being enforced is usually after a vehicle has struck a cyclist, causing injury or death. 

            Waiting to enforce this law until AFTER a cyclist is struck, in my mind, in no way fulfills the intent behind the law- to PREVENT a motorist from striking a cyclist while passing the cyclist.  Hence, the language “but in no case less than 3 feet clearance when passing the bicycle.”[ii]  This statute will only have teeth if motorists who violate this law, but do not strike a cyclist, are cited for violating this law.  This will show motorists that the police are actually serious about protecting the rights of all users of Wisconsin’s roadways, and hopefully this will modify the behavior of drivers who continuously think that bikes have no place on the road, and act as such while on the road. 

            So, patrol person who I see sitting in your squad car every morning, at 68th and Bluemound Road, as I go by on my bike and cars continuously come within more than 3-feet of me when passing- please take action.  Turn on your sirens, pull out of your hiding place, and pull over the drivers who violate the law.  By doing so, you will show drivers that you intend on protecting all users of Wisconsin’s roadways who have a right to be on the road.  You will send the message that cyclists have rights too, rights that are protected and will be upheld. 

            I ask this because the purpose of this law is to prevent contact between cyclists and cars, and all too often the only time the citation is issued is after the contact occurs, and sometimes, not even then.

            I am very curious to see the effects the Federation will have with its upcoming summit.  I hope the Federation is able to get enough legislators on board to sponsor changes to our laws that impose tougher penalties for drivers who violate the law, as well as laws that afford better protection to cyclists.  With everything else that is going on in Madison, I think this is a tough task, but I applaud the Federation for their tireless effort and advocacy for cyclists in Wisconsin.






[i] See Wis. Stat. §346.075(1)
[ii] Id.

Monday, April 11, 2011

SPRING IS SOMEWHAT IN THE AIR- A (BRIEF) REFRESHER ON THE RULES OF THE ROAD

(Authors Note: This is my first blog entry ever.  For someone as young as me, 27, that must be some sort of record in this day and age.  Anyway, I would like to take this time to thank the one person who I know for sure will read this, or at least say she did - hi mom!)

            Well, it is kind of/ almost that time of year.  From my window right now I see rain, clouds and wind, but it is April in Wisconsin- Spring Classics time!  (Even if the only cobbles I tackle are the 5-foot stretch on State Street by Miller Brewery- but I own those cobbles!)
            Time to dust off the road bike, clean it up and take it out for a spin. Oh how fun it can be to take your bike outside for a nice ride in (hopefully) nice weather!  Side note- it is, sometimes, fun to ride in not nice weather- just last week I was caught out in some sleet, which hurt, but motivated me beyond belief to peddle really fast and tear up those last 10 miles, which I did in record time, and promptly congratulated myself with piping hot coffee and a long hot shower.  But I digress…
             Anyway, just like your bike might need a tune up before you take it out, you too may need a refresher on some basic rules to abide by while riding your bike outside.  (Especially since the only rule when riding on the indoor trainer is don’t tell your friends if you somehow manage to fall off, or that you are watching Robocop 3, which you own on DVD.)
           
            1)            Remember to signal when turning and/or suddenly stopping or slowing.  A cyclist must use his or her left arm to signal and must do so continuously during the last 50 feet traveled before turning.  Signaling does not have to be continuous if the hand is needed to control the bicycle.  Also, a signal to indicate stopping or slowing is not needed when a cyclist is approaching an official stop sign or traffic control signal.[i]
                        Signals[ii]
                        a) Left turn or U-turn- hand and arm extended horizontally
                        b) Right turn- hand and arm extended upward
                        c) Stop or decrease speed- hand and arm extended downward

            2)            Obey traffic signals and watch for uncontrolled intersections.  A bicycle is considered a vehicle[iii], and therefore must obey all traffic controls and yield the right of way to pedestrians at marked/controlled and unmarked/uncontrolled crosswalks and intersections.[iv]
            There is one small exception for traffic signals controlled by vehicle actuated intersections (lights that only change when vehicles are present in one direction or another)- a cyclist may proceed through a red light at an intersection IF the cyclist has stopped at the red light for at least 45 seconds and no other vehicle is present, and the cyclist reasonably believes the traffic signal is vehicle actuated.
           
            3)            Remember to ride as close as practicable to the right hand edge or curb.  Don’t worry if you forget this rule at the start of your ride, because sure enough one of the cars out on the road will remind you with a pleasantly loud honk and/or a friendly “buzz by”.  There are a few exceptions to this rule.[v]
                        a) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
                        b) When preparing for a left turn or U-turn at an intersection or a left turn into a private road or driveway.
                        c) When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions, such as but not limited to, parked cars, animals, pedestrians or surface hazards (think potholes, especially this time of year).       
           
            Those are some basic and not all encompassing rules of the road to get you started for the cycling season, whether you are a professional/amateur out for a training ride, pretend professional, weekend warrior, or a casual cruiser.

            Here is to hopefully a wonderful bicycling season.  Enjoy the ride.  Yay bikes!!!


[i] See Wis. Stats. §346.34(1)(b), §346.34(2)
[ii] See Wis. Stats. §346.35
[iii] See Wis. Stats. §340.01(5)
[iv] See Wis. Stats. §346.23(1), §346.24(1)
[v] See Wis. Stats. §346.80(2)(a)